Monday, February 15, 2010

Technology in Education- How to Support a Tip in the Right Direction

flickr CC image via Hampton Roads Partnership

There are so many issues surrounding education. People all over the world are tweeting, joining personal learning networks, participating in professional development and lobbying about all of these issues... there is seemingly no end to it, and perhaps this is for good reason. One of the most current extremely hot-button issues in education is the integration of technology in teaching and learning. Considering the pace at which technology is advancing in our world, there is a very real challenge in education to keep pace. (I would argue that keeping pace isn't even good enough. I believe that educators should be leading the charge in society regarding technology integration and utilization. Can there be a better environment for this to occur?)

As correlated to so many variables influencing the tone that technology integration in schools takes place, (age, access to technology, desire to learn, socioeconomic status, school division philopsophy, personal teaching philosophy, parental support, etc.) all of us who influence children's education fall somewhere on the spectrum of attitude toward the use of technology in schools as  microcosms of society, and society in general.

By creating an us (those who endorse, support and nurture digital fluency) against them (those who don't support, for whatever reason, the advancement of social, educational and scientific technology applications) adversarial environment in schools, there is no opportunity to move from transactional forms of leadership to idea-tipping transformational leadership (what we so desperately need to effectively synthesize tech. integration in schools, and in reality, so many other change-requiring elements of N. American education institutions.)

I'm a fan of eastern philosophy. In Taoist philosophy, the word "Tao" is loosely translated as "the way." I believe that in order to find 'our way' on the technology transformation journey, education leaders need to be less provocative and more transformative.

Those of us who are keen to explore, understand, discover and utilize technology in our teaching and learning practise are duty-bound not to alienate those who, for whatever reason, are not. (I would assert that most who appear opposed to tech. integration actually aren't; they simply are anxious about something that they don't fully understand, and they're waiting for someone to just 'tell them what to do' so they can reserve the right to continue feeling, dare I say, safely dictated to by powers beyond their control.) Many teachers suffer from this default perspective, in my opinion. I also feel that the vast majority of them are intensely passionate professionals who have simply been dictated to too many times; they've lost their verve. It's up to us who's flames haven't gone out to re-ignite their desire to explore and discover the tech. integration possibilities that have yet to excite them.

We do this by treating our colleagues the same way we would responsibly treat our students when they feel anxiety toward a new challenge; we lead by example as pioneers unafraid to make mistakes. Stepping out in front as teachers constructively utilizing technology in schools will provide a bit of necessary Teflon for those who are apt to hang back and not take this sort of risk. Stepping to the back when their incremental efforts produce success is a great way to support this 'tech pioneers as leaders' mentality.

Self-esteem comes to those who become good at something, and then are provided a means to share that with others when comfortable. My strategy in leading a technology integration process aims to provide opportunities for colleagues to watch and learn without anxiety (the art of protecting,) and then to illuminate their learning progress by creating opportunities for them to share new skills (the art of celebrating). The desired outcomes are a comfortable tech learning environment where success is unaffected by stress and external pressures, and an expanded set of tech skills and insights on behalf of the teachers I work with. How can this lead to anything but a transformational change?
The most effective revolutions are the ones nobody realized were happening.
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